Vibrant Nature, a Stone’s Throw from Santander
The Picos de Europa National Park was Spain’s first protected nature reserve. Situated in the centre of the Cordillera Cantábrica range, it is now a listed by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and is undoubtedly one of the loveliest spots in all Spain. The area offers an endless variety of activities, notably a visit to the Virgen de la Salud sanctuary where a traditional shrine festival is held every year. It is attended by large numbers of shrine pilgrims from the Lebaniega district. Other destinations include an outing to the Cabaña Verónica, or to Las Manforas mines. We have to limit our scope, so we shall propose just two readily accessible routes to give you time to enjoy these wonderful landscapes. And, the best thing about it is that this paradise getaway is just over an hour’s journey from Santander.
The Road to Espinama – Accessing the Central Massif
The trail starts at the Hotel Áliva, some 4 km from the upper level of the Fuente Dé cableway. From there, you take the Montaña footpath which leads down on the left. On your way down, you will come to a turning on the left which leads to Sostres, followed by a turn-off to the Ermita de la Salud. The path winds down into the Nevandi river valley, which acts as a boundary between the Macizo Oriental and Macizo Central (Eastern and Central Massifs). You then come to the Invernales de Igüedri, where you catch a glimpse of the southern arête of the Pico Valdecoro (1,841 m). You will recognise the invernales because in the centre is a large concentration of stone barns dotting the southwestern slopes of Castro Cogollos.
The trail ends in the streets of Espinama. In all, the descent starts at an altitude of 1,600 metres and ends at the 900-metre level. After leaving behind the most rugged landscape, the mountain pass and meadows for summer grazing come into view. You finally reach Espinama, in the municipality and valley of Camaleño, one of the major points of access to the Central Massif of the Picos de Europa. This trail is a pleasure on the senses – you will not require a filter for any of your pictures.
This trail is very easy, although the descent is abrupt and can take its toll on one’s knees. The worst part is having to make the 3.5 kilometre stretch from Espinama to Fuente Dé, if you’ve parked your car there. A good remedy is to take one of the mountain taxis in Espinama.
Start: Hotel Áliva
Duration: 2 hours 30 min.
Rendezvous with History in Mogrovejo
Mogrovejo is well worth the visit. The village has an intense history and is designated as a Historic Rural Complex, said to be among the best preserved in all Liébana. It is also claimed to be the birthplace of St Turibius, the relic bearer, Bishop of Astorga, Lord of Mogrovejo and Don Pelayo’s deputy. And of another St Turibius, from the 16th century, who became Bishop of Lima. A tower in the village overlooks the valley and is flanked by the Picos. The illustrious Toledan poet, Garcilaso de la Vega, a luminary of Spain’s Golden Age, also descends from the house of Laso de la Vega there.
This trail also starts at the Hotel Áliva. You take the path down to Espinama as far as the Portillas del Boquejón, where you come to the third turn-off on the left. If you follow that path, you come to Pembes, where the Virgen de la Salud is paraded in winter. If you take the other turning on the left, you come to Llaves, providing access to another trail leading to Mogrovejo.
This route affords splendid views of the Puertos de Río Cubo (Cosgaya) and the Puertos de Espinama, where the livestock that grazes on the Áliva mountain passes is led in late July.
Start: Hotel Áliva
Duration: 2 hours 30 min.
Hotel Áliva, located on the upper level of the Fuente Dé cableway, in the heart of the Picos de Europa National Park, is a family hotel surrounded by mountains, meadows and captivating scenery. It is framed by the lofty Picos de Europa mountains which will leave no one impassive. The silence, broken only by the clinking of the bells worn by livestock grazing nearby, makes for a pleasurable stay, if what you’re seeking is to switch off and relax. The location is also ideal for going on excursions into the Park.
It also has a restaurant featuring the stews so typical of Cantabrian cuisine and locally sourced meat, making for a great meal to round off a day in the wild. The menu is based on carefully prepared dishes made with local produce from the Liébana district.
The hotel is the ideal place for switching off and soaking up the peacefulness of the mountainside. Hikers have an endless choice of trails around the hotel. It has a capacity of 70 in rooms sleeping two, four and even six guests. Telephone: 942 730 999 (From 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.).
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Text and images by Turismo de Cantabriamore info
Royal Palace of La Magdalena
Located on the La Magdalena Peninsula (an area of great beauty) and facing the Island of Mouro, the Royal Palace of La Magdalena stands as one of the most iconic places in Santander and serves as a socio-historical landmark in the city.
Besides the palace itself, it is also possible to visit the stables, a small zoo and the raft and three galleons with which the Cantabrian explorer Vital Alsar crossed the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
The Royal Palace of La Magdalena is open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00.
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From La Porticada to Puertochico
In Santander, we have met one of these persons who knows the town like the back of his hand. While he is talking about history and curiosities of Santander, he takes us through different bars and taverns in order to show us every specialty of each place.
At a dramatic pace we go from one tavern to other while he recommends us tasting the best bite of cod, or he warns how rude is the waiter in that place but let´s going in because they have the best seafood! Or “here there is the bestpiconcheese you can ever taste” There is no time to waste because in Santander there are many good taverns and he wants to show us all of them (or, at least, he will try)
The tavern tour is not quite expensive, because in Santander bites and plates are cheaper than in other northern towns. Bites cost between €1 and €2,50 and plates between €6 and €18 depending on what is ordered.
From beautiful Plaza Porticada (arcaded square), that hosted the International Festival of Santander for many years, to the popular neighborhood of Puertochico let´s walk around the excellent cuisine of Santander!
Calle Tetuán 21
Typical restaurant and bar without any comfort but where you can enjoy some exellent fish and seafood well-priced. Here we tasted some extraordianr rabas. During the high season it is not easy to find a place.
La Flor de Tetuán
Calle Tetuán 18
The specialty of this bar is fish and seafood. Prize is higher than in other local places but they serve the best grilled shrimp in Santander (plate costs about €12). Rabas, barnacles, spatter ... all the seafood is great!.
La Bodega de Santoña
Calle Peña Herbosa 21, enfrente del edificio del Gobierno Regional
Typical products from Cantabria like cheese and anchovies.
Paseo de Pereda 37, al lado de Puerto chico
Great assortment of tapas and snacks from the more classic ones, like the bite of tortilla (Spanish omelette) to their own specialty Cantabrian bite. His chef, Joseba Guijarro, has one Michelin star and Casa Lita has awards for the quality of its bites.
Bodega Fuente Dé
Calle Peña Herbosa
Here we find picón cheese, an excellent blue cheese made in Cantabria. When you get into Bodega Fuente Dé, a hard mix of smells of cheese and pickles bits your nose. Few minutes later, this smell develops in an addictive fragance.They also serve tapas and typical dishes like cocido montañés, cocido lebaniego or picadillo de Potes.
Calle Peña Herbosa 17
Vermouth with siphon. Great assortisment of tapas, mussels, rabas (squid rings), (tentacles), and many others.
Calle General Mola 14
Just like Casa Lita, this place is a pioneer in Santander in serving elaborated tapas as País Vasco style. La Cigaleña
Daoiz y Velarde, 19
Un auténtico museo del vino en el que probar especialmente la tapa de bacalao rebozado. Riquísimas.
Tapas y Vinos
Calle Marcelino Sautuola
Rioja wine well-served and excellent tapas. The best one is the Spanish omelette with pork rinds.
Calle Marcelino Sautuola
Exquisite squid rings and tentacles and very well served portions of ham.
Calle de Gómez Oreña, 9
With to El Marucho, it is one of the most frequented by Santander visitors. Good plates of anchovies and fried bites served on big tables, that we ate all together listening a piano music.
Calle de Gómez Oreña, 15
Excellent tapas cooked by one of the best chefs in the town. Here we ended the tapas tour because we ate too much not because there were no more bars or restaurants.
When we were returning home, he still recommended us to go to El Riojano (that looks like a museum with its painted by celebrities barrels), La Gloria, El Cantabria, Las Hijas de Florencio, La Malinche, Días de Sur, La Bodega de Jesús Quintanilla...
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The scenery in this land is highly varied, featuring the best of Cantabria, with its rugged coastline and inland landscapes blessed with nature in its pristine state. We are going to concentrate on two routes that traverse the province and boast an extraordinary historical and cultural legacy, studded with a host of priceless Romanesque churches. Both are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
The Northern Road to Santiago
Also known as the “Coastal Road” and running for 936 kilometres, in the Middle Ages it acted as a distribution network along the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The coastal road coincides roughly with the current layout of main roads, stretching across the whole region from east to west.
The miraculous discovery in 813 of the tomb of St James sparked the beginning of the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, situated at the western edge of the known world. This centre of pilgrimage gradually grew in importance, vying with others in Rome, Jerusalem and Liébana. The pilgrims took the roads that led westwards which were generally old Roman ways still in use. In addition to the main route, which led across the north of the Meseta, there were alternative routes like the coastal road, part of which ran through Cantabria’s maritime districts. Thus, the road led through Castro Urdiales, Comillas, Laredo, Santander, Santillana del Mar and San Vicente de la Barquera, all of which boast valuable medieval religious buildings, both Romanesque and Gothic.
You are advised to negotiate the route in nine stages:
Stage 1. El Haya de Ontón – Castro Urdiales (21 km)
This is the first stage on the Northern Road through Cantabria. It leads through Baltezana, Otañes, Santullán and Sámano. The route is smooth, with no marked slopes, and has restaurant facilities, rest areas and drinking fountains.
Stage 2. Castro Urdiales – Guriezo (12.9 km)
A short stage. It is worth taking time to visit the Gothic church of Santa María, particularly its interior. You will pass through the villages of Allendelagua, Cérdigo, Islares and Nocina. The standout stretch is the last three kilometres, with stunning views of the Cantabrian Sea.
Stage 3. Guriezo – Laredo (23.1 km)
This takes you through Rioseco, Tresagua, Lugarejos, Iseca Nueva, Sopeña and, on the way to Laredo, through Iseca Vieja, Las Cárcobas and Valverde. The most prominent features include the hillside walk which culminates in your first glimpses of the Liendo Valley, the beautiful scenery around San Julián beach, and the town of Laredo, with memories of its medieval and modern history cast in stone.
Stage 4. Laredo – Güemes (36 km)
The municipalities traversed on this stage are Santoña, Argoños, Helgueras, Noja, Soano, Isla, Bareyo and Güemes. Noteworthy in Laredo is its 16th-century Town Hall. This is followed by a stroll along the beaches of Salvé, which stretches for over 4 kilometres, and Berria. When you come to Bareyo, make sure you visit its church, a gem of the Cantabrian Romanesque.
Stage 5. Güemes – Santander (18 km)
A short stage which allows you to explore the capital of Cantabria more fully. The places you pass through are Galizano, Somo, Pedreña and Santander. In the capital, the acclaimed landmarks include the historic centre and the Reina Victoria promenade. Don’t miss out on the Jardines de Pereda and the Cathedral, set behind the post office, in addition to the Iglesia del Cristo, where you can get your pilgrim credentials, both for the Road to Santiago and the Lebaniego Road.
Stage 6. Santander – Santillana del Mar (40 km)
Peñacastillo, Santa Cruz de Bezana, Puente Arce, Requejada, Barreda and Queveda are the population centres you traverse on this stage. From a cultural standpoint, the most striking landmarks are the 16th-century Arce bridge and the town of Santillana del Mar, a medieval museum in itself.
Stage 7. Santillana del Mar – Comillas (24.6 km)
This is a beautiful stage which, like the previous one, can be broken into two parts. One as far as Cóbreces and the other up to Comillas. Both are worthy of stopovers as they boast historical complexes. And, make sure you don’t miss the villa of the Marqueses de Comillas with its Catalan Modernist features.
Stage 8. Comillas – San Vicente de la Barquera (12.5 km)
The highlights of this stage are undoubtedly the above two towns, and the scenery along the Cantabrian seaboard which connects them. The route takes you through Rubárcena, La Rabia, Guerra, Rupuente and La Braña. Keep your camera or mobile handy as you’ll be passing through the Oyambre Nature Reserve and some idyllic beaches.
Stage 9. San Vicente de la Barquera – Unquera (16.4 km)
Everywhere you look around you reveals stunning scenery. Behind you lies the town of San Vicente and, to the front, the spectacular Picos de Europa mountain range. This stage takes you through La Acebosa, Hortigal, Estrada, Serdio and Pesués. While you’re at it, between San Vicente de la Barquera and Unquera you can take a detour at Muñorrodero if you also want to do the Lebaniego Road.
The Lebaniego Road
This is one of the most important and beautiful pilgrim routes. In fact, 2017 will be a Jubilee Year in Liébana. The Lebaniego Road runs from San Vicente de la Barquera to the Monastery of Santo Toribio, passing through the municipalities of Val de San Vicente, Herrerías, Lamasón, Peñarrubia, Cillorigo, Potes and Camaleño. The route traverses some beautiful natural spots and boasts fine examples of Cantabria’s architectural heritage. It also provides access to the Northern Road (or Coastal Road), the French Road and the Road to Santiago from the routes in León and Palencia, pointing to the historic ties between the diocese of Liébana and the kingdoms of León and Castile. Many pilgrims make the journey to Santo Toribio and then connect up with the two roads to Santiago for the purpose of attaining both credentials. It is advisable to negotiate this route in three stages:
1st Stage. San Vicente – Cades (28 km):
San Vicente de la Barquera is one of the major and most touristic towns in Cantabria. Although outside the scope of the pilgrim’s route, it also features interesting sites like the 13th-century Castillo del Rey, the 15th-century Convent of San Luis, where Charles V lodged before being proclaimed king in 1517, the bridge known as Puente de la Maza and the Sanctuary of La Barquera, both dating from the 15th century. From there you set out to Serdio, and on to the mountain trail that leads to Muñorrodero. The trail ends in Camijanes. You then pass through Cabanzón with its Medieval Tower and, finally, you come to Cades.
2nd Stage. Cades – Cabañes (30.53 km):
From Cades, you head for La Fuente. There you can visit the Church of Santa Juliana, one of the jewels of Romanesque art in Cantabria, listed as a Cultural Interest Site. After reaching Cicera, the road leads to Lebeña, passing through an oak and beech forest with millennial specimens, as well as field mushrooms of all kinds in season. The route ends in Cabañes after negotiating a slope.
3rd Stage. Cabañes – Santo Toribio (13.7 km):
The first stop is in Pendes, which you cannot leave without trying Liébana’s typicalquesucocheese. From there, the road leads to Tama, and then on to Potes, with its impressive Torre del Infantado, the town’s most emblematic landmark and one of the finest in Cantabria. It makes a priceless picture with the Picos de Europa in the background. Finally, you come to the Monastery of Santo Toribio, where the Lignun Crucis is venerated. The classical Gothic and Baroque monastery was built from the 13th to the 18th century. It features the 15th-century Gate of Pardon which is opened every Lebaniego Jubilee Year; that is, every time 16 April falls on a Sunday, the feast of the monk St Toribio, a historic figure acclaimed for having brought the Lignum Crucis to Liébana. This is regarded as the largest relic of Christ’s Cross.
Full information on the Road can be found here. In addition to the information, news and routes, there is a link to a map of the Road.
Millennary Yet Modern Road
The Lebaniego Road was the first pilgrim’s route to have a wi-fi internet connection, thanks to the project, Camino Lebaniego en Red. The connection is achieved via a system of waymarkers that provide a signal throughout the route. The technology enables travellers to interact with one another, access information and share their experience with other pilgrims. It is also accessible to people with disabilities and is generally designed as a comprehensive system for those covering the 72 kilometres of road. More information here.
So, take up your backpack and don your sturdy footwear for the journey. Live out the experience of the Road for yourself. Check out our flights here.
Text and images by Turismo de Cantabriamore info